Monday, December 5, 2016

Putin Wants Talks with Trump Not an Agreement with Him, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 5 – Vladimir Putin very much wants to have talks with incoming US President Donald Trump, something the Kremlin leader sees as ending his international isolation and confirming his status as the leader of a super power, but he doesn’t have an interest in reaching an agreement with him, according to Vladislav Inozemtsev.

             The Moscow economists tells Kyiv’s “Delovaya stolitsa” that “like any [incoming] American president, Trump will at first show that he has a positive attitude toward Russia and there will be an attempt at a new reset and the establishment of a new consensus” (

                “But I have the sense,” Inozemtsev says, “that Putin does not have any particular desire to agree about something. There is the decorative position that renewal of dialogue is necessary but this is because for Putin dialogue is more important than the result: the very fact of a conversation is more significant than specific agreements.”

            Putin needs “only to create the impression” that he wants to talk. A dialogue may begin and there may be six months of “a honeymoon,” the commentator says. “But then Trump will understand that he is being ‘played with’ or denigrated. [And] at that point will began a much harsher conversation than the one with Barack Obama.”

            “If Angela Merkel says that Putin constantly deceives her and thus she wants to reduce to the maximum possible minimum of meetings with him,” Inozemtsev argues, “then Trump will react in a corresponding way. Over the course of his business career, Trump was able to tell when he was being ‘played’” and quickly stopped having anything to do with them.

            Three other commentaries on Putin’s foreign policy agenda also shed light on why the Kremlin leader is unlikely to want any agreement an incoming US president could agree to and why he will prolong talks to boost his status but avoid reaching accords, even “grand bargains” of the kind many talk, lest they tie his hands abroad or undermine his standing at home.

            In a commentary in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Moscow security affairs commentator Aleksandr Golts says that the new Russian security doctrine doesn’t say what Moscow will do but only what it wants the rest of the world to know about Russian thinking (

            As such, it has less value than many think and those who try to figure out what it means are like paleontologists who must reconstruct an entire dinosaur on the basis of a single bone.  But in the nature of things, he continues, the authors can’t hide everything they plan and so one can see what they like and dislike.

            On the one hand, they entirely hypocritically complain about the increased role of force in international relations, urging all states to agree to a kind of Holy Alliance based on religious principles like the one that existed in Europe in post-Napoleonic Europe. And on the other, they reject the use of “soft force.”

            “With the election of Donald Trump as president of the US,” Golts argues, “the Kremlin to its misfortune has obtained ‘a counter-partner,’ who is attached to approximately the very same primitive views on international politics and who it follows will not be slow to use all the military, political and economic might of the United States for the achievement of what he considers to be American interests.”

            The new foreign policy doctrine, he concludes, “leaves Russia with ‘the right to react harshly to unfriendly actions including by means of strengthening its national defense and adopting mirror-image or asymmetrical means.’”  In short, the document suggests that Putin and Trump are far more likely to find themselves at loggerheads than in agreement.

            Ukrainian analyst Viktor Kaspruk says there are good reasons why that is so as far as Putin is concerned.  Not all Russians certainly want war, but those who do “need an enemy: they simply need to hate someone because hatred is the only thing that in Russia, in the absence of advanced science, contemporary technology, contemporary cultural achievement, and other essential factors can unite and feel itself a synchronous all-national unity” (

            Putin is likely to focus on the former Soviet republics not only because of the failures of his broader policies and his hope that no one will contest him there but also because “present-day Russia is ‘a paper tiger’ with a half destroyed economy which can offer the world only hatred, corruption, primitive propaganda, aggression, a declining standard of living and cheap vodka.”

            “Russia has many enemies,” the political analyst says, but “the irony is that all of them perhaps would like to have good-neighborly relations with Russia but Putin’s aggression has driven them away from that. In reality, no one will fight with Russia” because it can be controlled economically.

            In all this, Kaspruk says, “Russia is playing a dangerous game, distracting the attention of its citizens by foreign ‘adventures’ in order to conceal the complete failure of Putin in creating a vital economy in Russia.” No one can have any illusions about this, not those who live near Russia or those who live further away.

            And finally, in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Moscow political analyst Sergey Zhiltsov argues that Putin appears to have decided to focus most of his attention on the former Soviet space, what Russians call “the near abroad” rather than further afield where Moscow’s leverage is less (

                That area is one where Russia has clear advantages compared to the US and the West more generally, and thus it promises to give Putin the opportunity to show his strength for a domestic audience. But by turning in that direction, the Kremlin leader will have signaled to other powers that Russia is after all a regional power and not the super power he aspires it to be.

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